The Roosevelts of Hyde Park – Springwood and Val-Kill Cottage

On Sunday, June 10th, the four of us drove to Hyde Park to visit Springwood, Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s birthplace, family home, and burial site, and now a national historic site. There is no way I can describe how fascinating this tour was.  We all know FDR from our history classes, but with our guide Dimitri’s knowledge and obvious enthusiasm about the time period and FDR, the dry history of schoolbooks became personal with anecdotes and stories.

Our tour begins on the floor mosaic map with National Parks Guide Dimitri.

As we began our walk on the grounds, we passed this wind vane-like sculpture. The base is like the wheels on a wheel chair and the top is reminiscent of a sail.

This is a charming sculpture of Franklin and Eleanor. I hope no one minds that I sat down with them for a moment.

FDR, 1933

 

Franklin Delano Roosevelt grew up in a wealthy family, a privileged only child, but embraced public service. Elected as our 32nd President (1933-1945) his leadership through four terms covered two of our nation’s darkest times, the Great Depression and World War II.

Springwood -“All that is within me cries out to go back to my home on the Hudson River” FDR

Although FDR considered it his home and traveled there often, it was Sara Delano Roosevelt, FDR’s mother, who was in charge of Springwood. The house is decorated in a very dark style and feels somewhat oppressive, but the stories that Dimitri told made it all come alive.

Living Room and library
Dining Room

The bedrooms upstairs.
Top left – FDR’s birth room and childhood bedroom
Bottom left to right – the “chintz bedroom and the Roosevelts’s bedroom.

FDR’s wheelchair in the lift

In the summer of 1921, at the age of 39, he was stricken with polio. Most people know this, but I was unaware of the background story. Although Roosevelt spent the next seven years working at his rehabilitation, he never fully regained the use of his legs. Usually confined to a wheelchair, but determined to hide his disability from the public, Roosevelt could simulate walking with the aid of braces, crutches, and the steady arm of one of his sons.

FDR personally designed his simple wheelchair of an armless chair seat and wheels. Smaller than standard wheelchairs of the day, it could negotiate more easily through narrow halls and doorways.

The first US Presidential Library was started by FDR here. With more time, we would have definitely visited it as well.

Both Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt are buried here at Springwood.

Yes, we had to do a group selfie.

This was an all-out Roosevelt day so we headed to Val-Kill Cottage after lunch. Eleanor Roosevelt with two friends established an experimental furniture factory at Val-Kill, Val-Kill Industries, to employ local farming families in handcraft traditions. A small year-round cottage was built on the grounds and the Roosevelts used that as a more casual setting for entertaining family, friends, political associates, and world leaders. After FDR’s death in 1945 Eleanor used Val-Kill Cottage as her primary residence.

Val-Kill  loosely translated as waterfall-streamfrom the Dutch language.                                          “Val-Kill is where I used to find myself and grow.  At Val-Kill I emerged as an individual.”                -Eleanor Roosevelt

Malvina “Tommy” Thompson was Mrs. Roosevelt’s personal assistant. This room is part of a suite at Val-Kill Cottage that Eleanor set aside for Tommy to live in and use.

The dining room at Val-Kill. Our guide told several interesting and funny stories about dinner parties held at Val-Kill.

Sometimes it’s the little things that add meaning. Eleanor’s favorite dishes were handpainted Franciscanware in their apple design. I have a creamer and sugar bowl and my daughter-in-law has a beautiful big bowl.

Eleanor Roosevelt, 1933

 

The only National Historic Site dedicated to a first lady, not because she was first lady but because of her dedication and accomplishments for human rights, children’s causes and women’s issues. She served as a delegate to the United Nations General Assembly, from 1945 to 1953, the chair of the U.N.’s Human Rights Commission and helped to write the Universal Declaration of Human Rights—an effort that she considered to be her greatest achievement.

 

I was so taken with the human side of these two historical figures that I wanted to know more, especially against the backdrop of that time period. Dimitri recommended the book, No Ordinary Time by Doris Kearns Goodwin as a good place to start.

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U-puku-ipi-sing

The name Poughkeepsie evolved from a word in the Wappinger language, roughly U-puku-ipi-sing, which means “the reed-covered lodge by the little-water place.”  That little water place referred to a stream feeding into the Hudson River south of the present downtown Poughkeepsie area. You can almost hear the “Po-kip-si” in U-puku-ipi-sing, right?

Saturday, June 9 and another 18 nautical miles north to Poughkeepsie. These easy 2-3 hour days are nice!

Both Kindred Spirit and Magnolia anchored in Foundry Cove with West point in the background.

A last look at Cold Spring’s harbor and waterfront.

Looking ahead, up the river, mountains on both sides.

Storm King Mountain, on the west side, is more than 1,300 feet and the tallest peak in the region; an area known for summer thunderstorms.

About 4 miles into our day’s journey on the water, we came upon rocky Pollepel Island on the east side of the river, an island with an interesting history. The ruins of an old castle-like complex, known as Bannerman’s Castle, are visible on the little island.

Bannerman Castle on Pollepel Island

Francis Bannerman became the world’s largest buyer of surplus military equipment, starting after the Civil War and then growing large enough to operate a storeroom and showroom in New York City that opened to the public in 1905. After purchasing 90 percent of captured Spanish American War goods, Frank needed a secure place to store the explosive black powder. The family purchased Pollopel Island in 1900 and Frank Bannerman designed and built this very eccentric castle over 17 years to store munitions. After we returned home Al saw this video posted in Trawler Living and Cruising from video the Science Channel’s FaceBook page. It’s worth a quick look – what a story!

Ruins of Bannerman Castle

The remains of bridge supports between Pollepel Island and the land.

A better view from the north side. The castle was eventually destroyed by fire and in 1967, and the family sold the ruins of Bannerman Castle to New York State. It is too dangerous to visit the island and castle now.

We planned to stay in Poughkeepsie for 3 days and made reservations for a slip at Shadows Marina and for a rental car. There is so much to see in this area, but we can only choose a few things to do.

Magnolia and Kindred Spirit shared the inner side of the long face dock. There were some major wakes and strong currents!

Shadows has a large restaurant and separate space for weddings. Keith,the dock manager, is very nice and helpful, but the marina seems to be an afterthought. No office, just Keith’s truck; and only a little white trailer for a bath house.

Annette wrestled this long floating log from under Magnolia, pulling it up on the dock.

Although we had just arrived that day, we already had plans for late afternoon. The “GlassBarge” from the Corning Museum of Glass (CMoG) was in Poughkeepsie this very weekend. The GlassBarge is a 30’ x 80’ canal barge equipped with CMoG’s patented all-electric glassmaking equipment. It began its summer journey in Brooklyn in mid-May and is traveling north on the Hudson through the Erie Canal to Watkins Glen, ending in Corning in September. Tickets are free for the 30-minute demonstration of glass blowing.

The GlassBarge was docked at Waryas Park on the Poughkeepsie waterfront.

Lower left – Mike provided the narration to the demonstration
Upper left -Tom did most of the glassblowing.
Right – Helen assisted.

Al and I enjoyed a glassblowing experience (under supervision) in Newport several years ago, so we were quite interested in this demonstration. I took many photos but here is a sampling of the process, without any technical explanation. Sorry!

A hot ball ball of glass from the furnace is gathered on the pipe.

Tom begins to work the glowing glass by rolling it on the marver.

After rolling it in colored crushed glass to give it color, Tom began the blowing process while continually twirling the pipe.

Helen is going to add an additional different colored glass for the stem..

Tom and Helen work together.

Tom looks pretty pleased so far.

He has flared the top rim outward.

Finished!

To finish off our first day here, we ate dinner at the Mill House Brewing Company. What a find! Good job, Anthony!

The Mill House Brewing Company and “gastropub”

If you are at a brewery, shouldn’t you taste as many kinds as possible? That’s why we like to get a “flight” of little beers to share!                                                                                                                                       Al’s flight – Grocery Getter, Huber, NWT, Derailleur, CO2                                                               Michele’s flight – Kold, Cucumber, Zoe, Grocery Getter, Cuatro Cien                                                   Our favorite? We both liked Grocery Getter! Really. Such a mundane name, but so refreshing.

Enjoying life and good friends!

Our server, Nathan, was personable and knowledgeable. I enjoyed asking him about the beer and the food.

A good note to end our first day in U-puku-ipi-sing!

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North to Cold Spring

We are in totally new boating waters, different bodies of water, different views, different history, which makes for a nice little adventure at the start of the season. Although we have had more gray skies than sunshine, the mountains and hills rising up from the river can still capture our attention.

The Hudson’s Indian name was “Muhheakantuck” which translates to “the river that flows both ways.” That’s for certain; we are constantly checking which way the current is going. And then we mostly disregard it and go ahead anyway, albeit at a slower pace. 😉

Lawrence Zetilin’s Hudson reference states “Cold Spring, at the 55 mile point and slightly north of West Point on the east shore, is in my opinion, the most interesting river town to visit on Hudson River trip.”  With that recommendation, on Thursday, June 7th we left Croton-on-Hudson to head north to Cold Spring, only 16 nautical miles north.

As we followed Magnolia out of the cove, we were treated to a view of Anthony’s morning routine. While Annette pilots, he chats on the headset and drinks his coffee. Haha!

Stony Point Lighthouse is nestled in the trees above the Hudson on the west side.

Built in 1826, Stony Point Lighthouse is the oldest lighthouse on the Hudson River. Following the opening of the Erie Canal in 1825, it was constructed to safely guide the increasing river traffic. The light house was decommissioned in 1925.

We passed the “Spirit of Jefferson” tour boat on our starboard side.
It was recently auctioned off for $165,000 in 2017. There were some men roaming around on the deck. A fixer upper?

You can’t help but notice occasional graffiti on both manmade and natural structures. Time and Love?

Early on, Al pondered these stone walls along the river, so very close to the water. Why were they there?

Aha! TRAINS! Passenger trains and freight trains

It is impossible to capture just how long these freight trains are! Al counted 100 cars on one  freight train.

Bear Mountain Bridge ahead -the “entrance to the Hudson Highlands”

Shortly after noon, with great anticipation, we saw West Point up ahead. We would have considered stopping here and taking a tour, but from everything we read, it is not easy to do by boat. Just seeing the complex from the water and knowing even a little of its history and purpose is still quite impressive.

The United States Military Academy,  established by President Thomas Jefferson in 1802, stretches several miles along the river.

That dock at the base has been closed to visitors since 9/11 unless you are a retired general.

It was originally established as a fortress overlooking the Hudson River during the Revolutionary War. The Norman-style buildings are constructed from gray and black granite. West Point has been called the “Gibraltar of America.”

Around the northern point of West Point we had a glimpse of this bench sitting on rock. A place for contemplation?

Around the bend of the north end, is a view of  West Point’s athletic fields and buildings.

Messages on the roofs — “SINK NAVY” and “BEAT AIR FORCE”

Arriving in Cold Point, we anchored in Foundry Cove. I’ll admit that I was concerned about anchoring here given the depths on the charts and cautions about deadheads and shallow spots, but both boats found a place to drop the anchor.

Overlooking Foundry Cove is small Greek Revival Chapel. Designed in 1833 by a 16-year old architect, first Catholic Church north of Manhattan. Abandoned in 1907. Restored as nondenominational chapel.

Kindred Spirit, anchored in Foundry Cove, Cold Spring

Trains once again formed the backdrop of sound and sight in this anchorage as well.   Commuter service to New York City is available via the Cold Spring train station, served by Metro-North Railroad. The train journey is about an hour and ten minutes to Grand Central Terminal

This freight train was unusually colorful as it raced by on the opposite shore.

That first afternoon in Cold Point was also chore time on Magnolia with an assist from Captain Al. Annett’e newly sewn front window covers needed additional snaps. Al is the snap guy with the snap tool, but it looks like he is just “supervising” in this photo. 😉

They earned their relaxation time!

Friday was designated “explore Cold Spring day.” We all confirmed that Lawrence Zeitlin is correct – Cold Spring is truly a charming place, easily reached from the boat.

We dinghied to the Cold Spring Boat Club where they allow you to use a dock for a visit and to sign their guest book, available in the mailbox.

The Boat Club keeps a nice record of visitor statistics asking you to record your visit’s purpose – breakfast, lunch, dinner, shopping, ice cream, overnight. You know that we definitely checked off one for certain!

The village was given the name “Cold Spring”  because George Washington liked the cold water from the town’s spring. We searched for this spring thinking this must be marked, given its significance. We did find a marker in the bushes near this gazebo on the property of a restaurant.

Is it true???? Or just a local yore?

The main street of the village is on the National Register of Historic Places due to the many well-preserved 19th-century buildings, originally constructed to house workers at the nearby West Point Foundry. The streets are now lined with antiques and collectible shops, and a variety of eateries. Take a walk with us as we meandered around.

This tunnel takes you from the waterfront area to the upper village area under the railroad tracks.

The Cold Springers have a sense of humor —     “HELL YEAH WE’RE OPEN!”                             “VOTED BEST BURGER IN TOWN BY SOME GUY WHO LIKES BURGERS.”                               “LIFE IS EPHEMERAL. DON’T WASTE IT LOOKING UP BIG WORDS.”

My favorite sign with my favorite guy.

Speaking of ice cream, the last item on our Cold Spring exploration was to find the ice cream shop, “Moo Moo”.

Really, really good ice cream! They had one of my favorite flavors – Mexican Chocolate (dark chocolate with cinnamon and a hint of chili)!

Cold Spring’s waterfront park, perfect for watching the river flow by. Al and Anthony enjoyed a peaceful moment.

When Al and Anthony got up from the bench, I read the memorial plaque. I don’t know who Toby was, perhaps a faithful dog, but this message evokes a Hudson River picture in my mind.

 

 

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Croton-on-Hudson: Dam & Ice Cream!

With northwest winds predicted for the night, we chose to anchor in Croton-on-Hudson’s south anchorage for protection. We could still see the Tappan Zee Bridge behind us and a large complex just south of the anchorage on the east side of the Hudson — the Sing Sing Correctional Facility, a maximum security prison in the village of Ossining, NY. The original name  “Sing Sing” was derived from the name of a Native American tribe, “Sinck Sinck”. Attempts in 1970 to change the name to the “Ossining Correctional Facility” were unsuccessful so the name reverted back to “Sing Sing” in 1985.

Looks like a nice place with a great view of the river. Does crime pay?                                              Have you ever heard the phrase ““They sent him up the river”?  This phrase originated with the Sing-Sing Prison, back in the 1890s and then was broadened to apply to any prison. Do the younger generations know these old phrases?

I googled famous prisoners of Sing Sing, but I only recognized three names – David Berkowitz, the serial killer “Son of Sam” and Ethel and Julius Rosenberg, the married couple tried, convicted and sentenced to death for espionage in 1953.

On to more pleasant topics!

We were definitely out and away from the city and now in the Hudson River Valley.

The next morning we leisurely moved the 2.6 nautical miles north, around the Croton Point Park to the north anchorage for better access to town. We needed to stretch our legs!

Annette and I have both been reading Lawrence Zeitlin’s Hudson River Guide (2015) for information. Although he said you could dinghy to the town dock, we could not find that location. A guy from the Half Moon Marina assured us there was no places for a dinghy, but for $15 we could go there. Yeah, right.  Resourceful boaters that we are, we found a dinghy dock at the Croton Yacht Club with a welcoming attitude. I am including this information in case anyone reading tries to find a place for their dinghy here.

Not fancy, but safe and friendly!

From the yacht club, we had to cross the train tracks by walking up and over on a passenger bridge.

Lunch at The Tavern, definitely a local place.

There are a few things to do in and around Croton-on Hudson. With just the afternoon for exploring, we decided to visit the Croton Dam, about 4 miles away (thank you, Uber.)

We started above the dam. Impressive views!

Croton Dam is part of the water supply for New York City (up to 19 billion gallons of water, which is only a small fraction of the NYC water system’s total storage capacity of 580 billion gallons. WOW.

The most curiously interesting fact we learned is that the dam is the 3rd largest cut stone structure in the world (#1 Great Wall of China and #2 Great Pyramid of Piza). Italian, Irish, and Eastern European stone cutters were hired to build the dam in the late 1800s. Many of them were sculptors and artists on the side which led to Croton’s reputation as an art center.

The NEW Croton Dam (Built 1892-1906)
Depth of foundation below river bed = 124 ft
Height = 297 ft above foundation
Length of dam = 1168 ft, Length of spillway = 1000 ft       For a total of 2168 ft
Thickness of base =  206 ft Thickness at top = 18 feet

Finding a path to the park below proved to be a challenge, but we did find a park access road.  We became the  guides for a younger couple who obligingly took a photo of the older folks!

Croton Gorge Park is lovely, wooded and green accompanied by loud tumbling water from the  dam.

Looking down at the gorge and park area.

After walking around the park and dam, it was time for afternoon ice cream so we ubered back to town to find “The Blue Pig.” A little shop with homemade ice cream using “local dairy, fresh produce, and environmentally-friendly practices.”  The owner states it clearly and succinctly, “Your ice cream can only be as good as your milk.”

The Blue Pig. I should have asked why the name is “The Blue Pig.” Pigs don’t provide the milk, but I could become piggish if I lived near here!

Ice cream lovers!

We all agreed that the Croton Dam and The Blue Pig made Croton-on-the Hudson worth visiting.

Magnolia and Kindred Spirit anchored off the Croton Point Park.

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